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UAE’s Falcon Eye-1 Reconnaissance Satellite Set For Launch From French Guiana on 6 July 2019

UAE officials in front of the Falcon Eye-1 reconnaissance satellite prior to being shipped to French Guiana. Photograph courtesy of WAM.

The United Arab Emirates will launch the Falcon Eye-1 satellite into orbit on Saturday, 6 July 2019, at the French Guiana Space Centre at 05:53 UAE time (01:53:03 GMT).

Falcon Eye-1 will be the fourth Earth observation satellite launched by the UAE, and the first reconnaissance satellite, bringing the total number to ten satellites in orbit. The UAE plans to have 12 satellites in orbit by 2020.

The UAE satellite was built by Airbus Defence and Space and Thales Alenia Space. Falcon Eye-1 features a High-Resolution Imager, HiRI, imaging system with a ground resolution of 70 cm across a 20 km swath.

The satellite weighs less than 1,500 kg and will be launched via a Vega launch vehicle by Arianespace.

The Falcon Eye satellite is a high performance optical Earth-observation satellite system for the Armed Forces of the United Arab Emirates (UAEAF) manufactured by Airbus Defence and Space as prime contractor and Thales Alenia Space as co-prime.

The overall system is based on two identical satellites, Falcon Eye-1 and Falcon Eye-2, in Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO). Each satellite features an Earth observation payload, with very-high-resolution optical capabilities. It is equipped with a ground system for monitoring, receiving, and processing the images.

Upon the system delivery, Emirati engineers will control and operate the spacecraft.

The Falcon Eye-1 satellite, to be orbited by Flight VV15, will be the first space component of the system, and will have a dual use purpose: support the needs of UAE Armed Forces, and provide the commercial market with images.

It will weigh approximately 1,197 kg. at launch and will be raised to a heliosynchronous orbit at 611 kilometers.

Falcon Eye-2 will be launched later this year, also utilizing a Vega launch vehicle.

As satellite prime contractor, Airbus Defence and Space was in charge of the satellite design, integration, and tests, and supplied the platform.

Falcon Eye-1 is the 131st Airbus Defence and Space satellite to be launched by Arianespace. There are currently 20 Airbus Defence and Space satellites in Arianespace’s backlog.

Thales Alenia Space, as co-prime, designed and supplied the Optical Instrument and the image chain. Arianespace had launched 159 satellites for the co-prime of this programme, and there are seven additional Thales Alenia Space satellites in Arianespace’s order book.

The Falcon Eye programme relies on a heritage from previous French national satellite programmes, such as Pleiades.

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